April 9, 2015

Surrounded by lush greenery with a special historical location, Corner House at the Botanic Gardens evokes a romantic ambience which is perfect for a special date. The Corner House is a two-storey black and white bungalow built in 1910 and the Assistant Director of the Botanic Gardens, E J H Corner, used to live here from 1929 to 1945. There is history in this colonial bungalow which has since been modernised to accommodate a restaurant.

Chef and part-owner Chef Jason Tan plans a meticulous set menu which offers the 4 course at $98++ per person or 6 course at $148++ per person. There is also the Discovery Experience or degustation Menu at $248++ per person where you leave the meal entirely in Chef Jason Tan’s capable hands.

Chef Jason has an impressive track record. He started his career at the Les Amis restaurant and along the way also worked at the 3-Michelin-starred Robuchon a Galera at the Hotel Lisboa in Macau.

As you settle down into your seat, the soft and lilting jazzy music in the background puts you in the mood for a relaxing evening. Diners speak in hushed tones and if you want to use the occasion to propose to your significant other, choose a table at the veranda looking into the huge garden.

As an appetizer, the beetroot collection was interesting – not only was it a beautiful sight but it was chokeful of flavours. The collection had smoked eel, 24 months comte, horseradish, walnut and black garlic, all neatly arranged in a row.

Another appetizer which was given a new twist was the French royale oyster. It came raw or as they called it au naturel. Instead of the usual fresh oyster served with a slice of lemon and tabasco sauce, the oysters were surrounded by plum granite, basil seed and caviaroli.

The choice of starters was intriguing. If you order the Maine lobster “tiède”, you need to pay an extra $18 for this dish. The pieces of lobster meat were firm and fresh and they were accompanied by coulis of tomato, zucchini, capsicum, black olive, red cabbage, Kristal de Chine caviar. The other starter was the New Zealand cod “crispy scales” and I liked the different textures of the cod where the skin with scales in tact was crispy like biscuit crackers and yet the cod was soft. Surrounding the cod were brandade, chorizo, ginger, beurre noisette, soya and poultry essence. Sounds exotic but they were a perfect combination.

For the main courses, there was an additional charge of $42 if you order the Japanese A4 Toriyama beef. This was wagyu beef, buttery in taste and well marbled. The additional cost was worth paying for as the beef also came with sweet corn, yellow mustard seed, and beume noisette.

Hokkaido scallop with riso, seaweed, burnt leek, surf and turf emulsion was the other main course. The scallop was plump and had a tinge of sweetness. When eaten with the riso, it was heavenly.

A sweet ending to a good meal will be the desserts. I opted for two – Philibon melon and ‘my interpretation of kaya toast’. The name was misleading as there wasn’t any melon inside. Instead, it comprised Greek yoghurt, Gruyère de Friboug, extra virgin olive oil, and macadamia. It was not too sweet and the macadamia nuts gave a bite to the soft yoghurt.

One would have expected ‘my interpretation of kaya toast’ to have pieces of toasted bread in it. Instead, it had pandan, coconut, gula Melaka, muscovado sable and yuzu packaged like a bigger version of a macaron. The ingredients blended well and it was indeed an unusual version of Chef Jason’s kaya toast.

There were many surprises after my meal – in particular, the concoction of an egg where the yolk could be seen. It was a beautiful sight but to my great surprise, the “egg” was in fact, a chocolate. Another “dessert” which was complimentary was the macaron filled with kaya in the centre and that proved to be a pleasant treat.

As I was about to leave Corner House, the staff handed me a box of madeleine, compliments from Chef Jason. This was indeed a wonderful surprise! Although it was full house, the service staff were attentive and friendly. Corner House is one of Singapore’s best-kept secrets and can definitely match any Michelin-starred restaurants out there.

For more information, visit www.cornerhouse.com.sg.